We love the idea – Clear is visually stunning, and the UI is perfect for iPhone – but serious task masters need more robust tools.
by on June 15, 2012
Until Reminders hit in the fall of 2011, one of the most glaring holes iOS’s core functionality was the lack of a dedicated task manager. Lots of developers stepped in to fill the gap, and now there are as many to-do list managers in the App Store as there are things you need to do. But it’s difficult to make a splash when you’re talking about shopping lists, work tasks, and lists of things to fix around the house.
Clear has bucked that trend, taking the to-do app from something bland and unremarkable, to a feat of code so uniquely-designed for the iPhone, we can’t believe no one has tried it yet. Yes, Clear manages to make your grocery list sexy.
Clear has no buttons, check-boxes, or other cues. Gone are the complex interfaces and constant tapping of apps like Things and Omnifocus. Everything in Clear is done using Multi-Touch gestures that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever spent time with an iOS device.
The app has three hierarchical layers: the menu level, list level, and individual lists. The first time you fire up Clear, the app walks you through basic navigation. To go down a level (from your lists to an individual list, for example), you just tap on your selection. To move back up, a vertical close-pinch does the trick.
When you’re looking at a to-do list, swiping right marks a task complete, while a left-swipe will delete it. Editing a task is as simple as tapping on its name, and making corrections with the keyboard. But be warned: each item in Clear is limited to 28 characters – try to type any more and you’ll get an error noise. Pull down on a list to insert a new item at the top, or tap under the last item to add one to the end of your list. To add a new item in between existing list items, pinch out from them and a blank item pops up between the two. To move an item, just tap and drag it to a new position.
Clear’s colour schemes incorporate complimentary shades to indicate priority. There are five different themes, ranging from the reds and oranges of Heat Map, to shades of pink and magenta in Pretty Princess. Additional themes can be unlocked as you use the app, or if you have certain other apps installed on your device. Finish all the items on a list, and the app rewards you with a quote from luminaries like Yoda, Oprah Winfrey, and Thomas Edison (it’s not as hokey as it sounds, honest).
The effect of Clear’s buttonless design is simple and beautiful, and it feels like one of the few apps that was truly designed for the iPhone. After countless apps that look and feel like tap-happy ports of traditional software, Clear breaks the mould by fully embracing iOS’s Multi-Touch capabilities. But is that enough?
As enthusiastic as we are about the design, Clear should be more than a pretty proof-of-concept. It demos well, but as a functional to-do list, it has some serious limitations. The themes are well-designed – in theory, darker colours represent higher priority tasks – but there’s no way to view all tasks by priority level, making the different colours more flash than function. Without due dates, or any way to categorise items, Clear isn’t full-featured enough to serve anything beyond basic needs. It works for a grocery list, but it’s the iOS equivalent of a scrap of paper, although admittedly a very beautiful, modernist one.
Clear also lacks many of the advantages that a digital task manager offers over paper lists. There’s no syncing, sharing, or moving items between lists, and no location-based reminders. The hard 28-character limit for list names and individual tasks also forces users to keep things really simple. But perhaps that’s the point, after all. Your life is complicated enough – maybe your to-do list doesn’t have to be.
Download this app: Clear for iPhone
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Review courtesy of Tap!